Not feeling all that well today, I took a sick day and have stayed home. In that time, I have sat and watched wretched movies (Van Helsing), and boring reality tv show after another…at least for the first few hours. The tv just ceases to have its former draw with me, and I stepped back to a favorite thing to do: read. My choice of reading was driven a bit by one of the two History classes I am taking – the Dust Bowl, and Pre-Columbian United States’ History. The book I picked up was the one for the History side of the Dust Bowl class (its technically a Humanities class with a History, Soil Science, Literature, and Art History section embedded into it). One of the particular aspects that really spoke to me was the point that was made concerning the manner in which agriculture was treated by the government and the populace at hand during that time.
No, I’m not talking about GMO or governmental conspiracy garbage. The point was made that the farm was seen as a business. Single crop farming robbed the nutrients of the soil, because the farmer had to pay off debts that were incurred by purchasing newer, higher yield machinery by credit. The reason for the need for higher yield machinery was that the farmer had to work larger and larger acreage in order to compete on the marketplace. The higher yield crops – typical wheat and corn – produced a glut on the marketplace, which drove prices downward, creating a spiral or cascade effect on the farmer. Or, in the words of one of our four teachers: “The American farmer was forced to farm the hell out of the land.”
Now, my farming thumb is as black as they come. I have tried my hand at crops such as jalapeños – a supposed “can’t miss” crop I was told. After a whole Spring and Summer tending to my “crop” – I got two peppers. Out of ten plants. Yep, Farmer Tommy for sure! Now, it may have something to do with the soil in my backyard or some such mess – the point is that I am not a Farmer of any magnitude. However, I certainly get the point – and it has more to do with my understanding of my world through Paganism more than it does through Agriculture Science. We must achieve a balance with the land, if we are going to hope to live from it. For me, my perspective comes from Animism with a dose of polytheism thrown in. Thus, finding balance with the land means finding balance with the Spirits of the Land and with the Gods that are in this region. Yeah, I do hear folks saying that Animism and Polytheism shouldn’t mix and what not…that’s not my point, nor is it going to be a point going forward into the future. Its just the way that I – as one single individual – work with this.
Let’s try and face some concepts here as well, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of seven and a half billion people on the planet. And while some people live and eat better than others – I remember reading a WHO statistic somewhere that if we stopped all farming, hunting, fishing, gathering activities right now – that the current food levels would be enough to feed the entire world for about twenty days. I may be off a day or two in either direction on that number – but it is a sobering thought. Another sobering thought is that the amount of fresh water in the world is fairly low as well. Here in the Texas region of the United States, we are entering into the double-digit arena of a drought. There are times when it doesn’t feel like a drought, but still the amount of rainfall we get here each year is substantially below what is normally expected. Droughts are a part of life around here – and they run in cycles. It winds up being an issue when it comes to things like feeding cattle, watering crops, and keeping the danger of wildfires down – though wildfires are a naturally occurring phenomenon as well.
I am not saying that trying to achieve balance with the land is going to be something that fixes things — there’s a lot more than just making peace with the local Gods that will need to be done. But perhaps its something that would be a good start. ::shrug:: At least it seems like it would be a good start in my mind. But there’s something else to remember…a warning of sorts.
Prior to the Dust Bowl, we – humans – farmed the Nine Hells out of the land, squeezing every possible nutrient we could from the land until it was nothing more than bare soil. That bare soil then rebelled against us, and created an environment that gave us the frightening experiences of the Dust Bowl (check out pictures of the Dust Storms that you can find on Google). We learned about soil conservation, and that we needed to plant in ways that helped keep the land in harmony. We learned about rotating crops to extract the nutrients we needed, which would also replace nutrients for other crops. But we didn’t learn the lesson.
Farmers planted heavily and based their entire harvest on single crop because that was where the money was to be had. In the last decade, we have turned towards a manner of extracting materials from deep within the earth, which help to fuel our vehicles, our economy, and essentially lubricates our lives. Hydraulic fracturing is occurring all over the world – a new methodology to pull nutrients from the ground in order to fuel our vehicles and lubricate our lives. Have we not already learned what happens when we farm and extract nutrients from our earth on a wide scale without an accounting for balance?? All in the name of greed and profit.
I have watched the Spirits of the Land in my area around Denton. For the most part, they ignore human beings, in much the same way that we ignore ants. At least, we ignore them until they intrude where they should not be and start doing things they shouldn’t – such as getting into our storage containers of sugar on our counters and pantries. Then we get mad, get out the pesticides, and wage a fast war on them. As I watch the Spirits of the Land, and hear about the increasing small earthquakes that are happening as a result of what hydraulic fracturing is doing to the lands – I’m wondering when the pesticides will be released for us??